Hari Puri Baba’s Mirror Game
That night Hari Puri Baba appeared to me in a dream, the first time since he had left his body. As in many of my dreams about him, we were sitting on the banks of the Ganga, in what I later realized was Hardwar. He told me that he was in good spirits and I asked him where he was. He replied that he was in a place I would never think to look for him. “Is this a game?” I asked. He told me that it was indeed a game, and in order to play it, I would require a looking glass. He handed me a mirror with an orange plastic frame, like those you can find in any Indian market, and asked me to look carefully at my face. When I looked into the mirror, my face seemed different, perhaps older. When I turned the mirror at a slight angle, I could see the back of my head as if there were another mirror behind me. When I turned around, I saw myself reflected from every angle. In fact, I was in a room full of mirrors, and there were now thousands of me. The sky had vanished, replaced by a ceiling mirror, and when I looked up, my multitudes looked down on me. Hari Puri was no longer with me and I was sitting atop an abyss, in a world that consisted only of my own reflected image.
“What a dream!” I said to myself when I woke up, “Freud would have blown a fuse.” The dream was so illuminating that even though the sun hadn’t yet risen, the world seemed radiant with light. As I walked to the fields and then to the well to take my bath, I could see the phosphorescence of hidden ores shining from beneath the Earth’s surface. And I looked up to the sky and saw the same light pouring down from Venus-Shukra as it neared the horizon, where the Earth meets the Sky. I wondered if someone had slipped me a potion during my sleep, because I could see the soft shimmering glows, red, blue, and green, emanating from the stems of plants, spilling their secrets, and connecting them with the firmament.
Plants, minerals, and stars resemble each other, I thought to myself. I sat for my meditation and worship. As I closed my eyes and repeated out loud the fifty-one syllables, the totality of my sounds, and moved in my vocal arc, I found each syllable reflected in the night sky as a star. I became overwhelmed at the resemblances between the syllables’ sacred geography in my mouth and that of the stars in the sky: They seemed to occupy the same space, separated by a mirror. But the resemblances didn’t stop there.
My own face was like the sky, my two eyes the sun and the moon. My body was like the Earth, my flesh its soil covering my bones like its rocks and boulders, my veins the great rivers, and my organs the bowels of the Earth which hides the ores of precious metals. I saw that my ears reflected Space through which sound travels. My breath was the wind, the Air that allows the world to breathe, that I can feel on my skin, touch with my hands. My eyes reflected Fire, my taste Water, and my nose the Earth.
There was something that made things resemble each other. I had spent my life looking for differences, trying to assign an order to all the separate identities based on a scientific grid that contains all our knowledge in the modern West. Now I started to see the world and myself in a new way, a way that linked everything together.
The arrangement of Nature might appear chaotic but it is not accidental. When I saw that Nature placed two things next to each other, I realized this to be an interior connection between them and that they share a similarity. And in this bond, properties, movements, and influences are exchanged. Syllables and sounds are linked together as they touch and change each other. Everything in the world is adjacent to something else, and so is linked into a great chain of the things of the world.
But I also saw how resemblance was not determined by space, how things could resemble and thus influence each other without touching. Things could clone, reflect, or imitate themselves from afar. I remembered how Hari Puri Baba had described how one could reach any point in the universe in less than a second. What was the distance into the mirror that lay between my face and its reflection? What connection made my reflection smile when I smiled? I saw how distant things connected by reflecting each other, dogs barking during the full moon, Mercury transmitting its passions to the man born under the sign of Gemini. Distance between places doesn’t exist in this connection, for things reflect each other. And things that connect from a distance are not equal. The stars overwhelm the affairs of man, and the moon the tides.
Then I saw that the chain of the world itself reflected across space. I saw my face in relation to my body as the face of heaven is to space. The relationship among heavenly bodies was reflected in the relationship between me and my world, between people, as well as between and among all things in the world. I felt the rhythmic beat of my pulse reflecting the movement of the moon, the planets, and the stars in the sky, and the blood that pumping through my veins reflected the great rivers nourishing the Earth, as my blood did my body. I saw my intellect as a microscopic reflection of the Cosmic Mind, and my innermost being as a small flicker of the World Spirit.
I repeated the fifty-one names of the Mother Goddess, producing a necklace of fifty-one syllables that appeared around her swanlike neck, that formed my inner firmament, and that in turn reflected the celestial vault with all its heavenly bodies.
Then I saw a connection in things that was independent of space and mirrors, a power of the Same attracting and pulling all things into itself. Rajas, the Active, excited things into movement and changed them, altering their personalities. It pulled water from the sky to the Earth, and pulled water from the Earth into the sky. It pulled the roots of plants into the soil toward the water that it pulled from the sky. It pulled sacrifices into the fire and the smoke of the burnt offerings to the heavens where they could be enjoyed by the gods. It had the power of making things identical to each other. It had pulled me to India, and then to yogis, and to Hari Puri Baba. It had pulled me into a new lifestyle, and now a new way of thinking.
Left unchecked, the Active, like a great fire, would consume everything in the world and make it into a homogeneous mass, like the pure ashes of a dhuni. But this doesn’t happen because its opposite, the Passive, is always present in the form of inertia, identity, and separation, therefore resisting the Active.
The language that I was being taught established a network from one end of the universe to the other. I learned to recognize the brahmi plant by the resemblance of the twin hemispheres of its leaf to the human brain, that indicates its influence over brain functions, and that the plant’s effects are enhanced by combining it with the meat of the almond or walnut, both of which resemble the soft human brain protected by the hard human skull. And that the shells of these nuts treat skull injury. How else could I recognize ginseng, if not for the shape of the root resembling the human body, informing me of its tonic properties?I could now know that the brahmi plant was cooling, like the Moon, for its taste is bitter. All these plants spoke a silent language to those who knew it, revealing the secrets of their stems, leaves, and roots. Nature is filled with marks and flags that may capture our perception and point us toward a hidden connection.
“Am I sure I am me?” I asked myself, feeling very different now that I was seeing the universe with new eyes. I didn’t dare look at myself in a mirror, but I did examine my hands and feet to make sure they were still mine, since I felt like someone else.